Yesterday I caught the fringes of a twitter storm. It was every bit as stupid a situation as most twitter storms are. Basically it was person A whose politics were far left trying to dig up dirt on persons B through F or G; who are journalists who not leftist enough in person A's opinion. And therefore person A thought it was OK to go digging for dirt to try and expose persons B through F or G to the same kind of harassment that the targets of gamergate are experiencing. This situation is disappointing on so many levels. I am not going to name names, because the fact that I am aware of it shows that the situation is way higher profile than it deserves to be. The only reason I mention it, is that it illustrates why tactics are just important as goals. The ends don't justify the means. If person A really wants to as he claims, fight white supremacists and fascists, then he's doing a poor job of it when he attacks journalists. Especially when he employs the tactics of the online stalker: leaking personal information and coordinating a campaign of threats of rape and violent murder. Employing those tactics makes people who becomes aware of the issue say stupid things like 'both sides are equally wrong'.
I think that the goal of most progressives and liberals is to build a better civilization, not to build paradise on earth. We progressives and liberals should be able to look at injustice and say, "this needs to stop" even if that injustice works to our benefit. That means treating opponents with respect both when they have similar goals and there is a disagreement on tactics or when their goals are diametrically opposed. That means not stooping to dirty tricks. Dirty tricks are effective only when they are unexpected. But given the eagerness of on-line assholes to accuse others of 'false flag' operations, sock puppet accounts, hacking and doxing, it is unlikely that they would be taken unaware by in-kind response. Further, those dirty tricks hamstring any cause when evidence is revealed.
Hatred is a terrible motivation. Even when it is hatred of fascism and white supremecy. Hatred can make a person think that their worst actions are justified when used on a hated enemy. Hatred is a cheap thrill, a blast of anger that justifies horrific crimes. Genocide, ethnic cleansing, these are not the products of principled opposition to a real or imagined injustice. They result from people giving in to hatred and the belief that murder can solve problems. It's easy to think the world would be a better place if evil people were dead. And it might be. But it wouldn't be as good a place as it would be if evil people saw the error of their ways, and quit being evil. It sounds naive to put it in terms of 'evil' and 'good'. It is naive. Hardly anyone thinks of themselves as evil. They may consider themselves better or different or a person to whom the regular rules do not apply, but outside of the seriously deranged, most people aren't evil. Many people operate from different viewpoints, or with different ethics that from the outside can appear to be irredeemably evil. I can think of a few dozen important people who are daily doing what I consider to be evil things. But it would weaken my argument to name them, it would allow people* to dismiss this as mere tone trolling of the people I oppose.
But people are not prey. People are not resources to exploit or irredeemably violent fiends** to be dealt with as one would deal with a rabid dog. So I encourage everyone to exercise their empathy. Put yourself in the shoes of those you oppose, and try to think with their experience and their ethics. It won't be perfect. It can't be. But the exercise itself should give you insight into how your opposition thinks, how they will act and what arguments they will find to be convincing. Peace didn't happen in North Ireland because the most violent partisans on both sides were allowed to set the agenda. Peace happened because both sides were sick of the violence. Peace happened because it was easier to learn to get along than to keep going to funerals.
*the five people or so who read this blog post anyway
** OK some very small fraction of people are irredeemably violent fiends. There aren't enough of those violent psychopaths to do more than keep the police busy, and inspire horror movies. And some people are sociopaths with no morals that have learned to function in society, who can and do terrible things without getting their hands dirty. Society needs a way to identify and deal with them in a fashion that minimizes the harm to done to both them and to society, and no I don't know what that would be.